Dear Child Care Providers,
Well its 2013, and to borrow a famous line from Charles Dickens, “it was the best of times and the worst of times.” It seems that quote could relate to the child care industry in Oklahoma. Many centers across the state have seen a decrease in attendance, stagnant tuition rates, as well as increases in wages, food prices, gas and insurance, while their profitability decreases. But actually there are signs of positive things beginning to happen in the child care business in Oklahoma.
Over the past year, the Director of DHS, Howard Hendricks, has retired. In addition, the State of Oklahoma dissolved the DHS Commission. The DHS Commission had been a stumbling block for the child care industry in Oklahoma for years by failing to address the needs of child care providers and creating an environment that prevented an increasing number of families from qualifying for assistance while choosing not to address any rate increases for child care providers.
And now we are excited to have a new DHS director, Dr. Ed Lake, who came to Oklahoma from Tennessee. He reports directly to the governor rather than to the DHS Commission. Dr. Lake has a vast amount of experience after retiring as the DHS director of Tennessee.
Members of the OCCA Board have already met with Dr. Lake and expressed many of our concerns about the child care industry in Oklahoma. More importantly, one of his first questions in a recent DHS meeting was to inquire as to why there wasn’t an increase in the budget for child care providers. He held “listening meetings” across the state to hear the concerns of child care providers and other DHS entities. If you didn’t attend one of the meetings, you should have. OCCA had several members in attendance at those meetings.
Dr. Lake asked many questions regarding the relationship between DHS, the Office of Child Care Services and child care providers across the state. He knows we need more money to operate and is willing to work with us to make our industry better for the children as well as each of us as providers. This will be an ongoing process to find what needs to be changed and eliminate what doesn’t work. But we believe he potentially offers more of a helping hand to our industry than we have seen from the prior state administrators.
With all of these changes occurring, there is no better time than now to become a member of OCCA. We are well into our membership drive for 2013 and some might ask, “What are the benefits of my membership in the Oklahoma Child Care Association (OCCA)?” It is imperative that center owners and directors have a place to turn to for support, guidance and advocacy on key industry issues. A vital part of our mission is to positively impact the legislation written in Oklahoma that affects our industry. That is why OCCA has a full-time lobbyist working on our behalf to monitor changes in Oklahoma law that can affect child care providers. OCCA also provides training and support to providers across the state.
OCCA will continue to represent your perspective when regulations are being changed, initiatives are being established and legislation is being introduced. OCCA watches out for your best interests and protects your investment in this industry, because we “are you”, as an association made up of child care owners just like you.
As small business owners and members of OCCA, we highly encourage you to take part in the legislative process. Your individual voice in conjunction with our unified voice may impact change in this state. These changes can help your business and improve the quality of childcare for Oklahoma’s children. Many politicians are not aware of the problems facing our industry. So it becomes our goal to educate our elected officials as to the problems facing our industry in Oklahoma, whether it relates to us as small businesses or how legislation impacts the quality of care provided to the children.
With the potential for positive changes in 2013, evidenced by the new state leadership showing a willingness to work with our industry, join with us to enact positive changes to improve the quality of care for Oklahoma kids!
Thanks for all you do,